Faculty + Staff

UCLA Burkle Center launches Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom

New program will help foster research to find solutions to security challenges

Haroon Azar

Haroon Azar

The UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations has launched the UCLA Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom. The program will promote research on finding innovative solutions to security challenges while preserving civil rights and civil liberties.

As part of its unique approach to security, the initiative will engage experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines, including law, public policy, national security, technology, entertainment and public health. It will also offer legal seminars and clinics that will provide students and faculty with hands-on experience in non-discriminatory, inclusive approaches to security.

Made possible by a generous donation from Imaad Zuberi, vice chairman at Avenue Ventures Group, the new initiative will be based at UCLA but seeks to operate across the UC system’s 10 research universities.

“The launch of the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom could not be more timely,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “With its multidisciplinary approach, this vital area of research and study leverages the breadth of University of California expertise and is ideally positioned to put research into practice."

Using Los Angeles as a base will facilitate close collaboration with many varied community and faith-based organizations. “Los Angeles’ unique character is defined by a diversity of cultures and beliefs from around the world — and that diversity is our greatest source of strength," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "UCLA’s Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom reflects those values with a commitment to religious freedom in its approach to overcoming our most difficult security challenges. I’m proud to welcome this innovative initiative to our city.”

Haroon Azar, a 2008 graduate of the UCLA School of Law, has accepted an academic appointment to lead the initiative as program director and will join retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark as senior fellow at the Burkle Center. An internationally recognized national security expert who has worked for multiple administrations, Azar previously served at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as deputy director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia and regional director in Los Angeles. “This initiative will engage with nontraditional actors to help move the security conversation away from infringement and towards innovation,” Azar said. He will lead seminars on national security and civil liberties at UCLA and UC Irvine law schools.

“Haroon Azar is the perfect person to spearhead this new initiative,” Burkle Center Director Kal Raustiala said. “I could not think of a more opportune or important policy question for California and the nation than how to ensure that our communities remain secure while our citizens’ rights remain respected and protected.”

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