UCLA Launches New Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom

20170515 Burkle Haroon AzarThe UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations is pleased to announce the launch of the UCLA Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom (ISRF). 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 ISRF will engage experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines including law, public policy, national security, technology, entertainment and public health.

ISRF will also establish legal seminars and clinics at UCLA School of Law and UC Irvine Law School that offer students and faculty hands-on experience in non-discriminatory and inclusive approaches to security.

Haroon Azar, who earned his law degree from UCLA in 2008, has accepted an academic appointment to lead the ISRF.

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 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."

One of the most diverse cities in the world, Los Angeles is a unique base that will facilitate close collaboration with 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."

In addition to leading ISRF, Azar 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.

"Haroon Azar is the perfect person to spearhead this new initiative," said Burkle Center director and UCLA Law professor Kal Raustiala. "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."