UCLA Burkle Center launches new Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom

UCLA Burkle Center launches new Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom
Haroon Azar (UCLA Law 2008), director of the new initiative.

The new initiative, which seeks to operate across the UC system, will promote research on innovative solutions to security challenges while preserving civil rights and civil liberties.

UCLA International Institute, May 15, 2017 — The 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 that offer students and faculty hands-on experience in non-discriminatory and 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 located throughout the state. “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 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 UCLA School of Law alumnus (2008), has accepted an academic appointment to lead the ISRF 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.

“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.”

The ISRF is being met with enthusiastic support not only at UCLA but also within the UC system. The School of Law at UC Irvine will join the UCLA School of Law and offer seminars on national security and civil liberties taught by Mr. Azar. News about the initiative and its activities will be forthcoming in the next several months.