- Former deputy mayor of Homeland Security and Public Safety for the City of Los Angeles
- Was responsible for derailing the LAPD's plan to monitor activities within the Los Angeles Muslim community
- Was appointed as assistant secretary for the Office of Policy Development in Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security in 2009
- Became a Professor of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism in 2010
Born (in 1968) in Canada and raised in California by Indian and Pakistani parents, Arif Alikhan graduated from UC-Irvine in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in social ecology. Three years later he received a J.D. from Loyola Law School and was admitted to the California State Bar. He then clerked for U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew of California's Central District.
Alikhan subsequently served as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's office and taught law at the University of Southern California. He also spent time working for the U.S. Department of Justice as the overseer of its Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Program. In 2002 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Alikhan as Deputy Mayor of Homeland Security and Public Safety for the City of Los Angeles, a position he held until 2006.
An opponent of President George W. Bush's prosecution of the war on Islamic terror, Alikhan was responsible for derailing the LAPD's efforts to monitor activities within the city’s Muslim community, where numerous radical mosques and madrassas were known to exist, and where some of the 9/11 hijackers had received support from local residents.
In April 2009, President Barack Obama's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed Alikhan as assistant secretary for DHS's Office of Policy Development. Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Los Angeles branch, praised the "well-deserved" appointment.
Thirteen days prior to his DHS appointment, Alikhan, a devout Sunni Muslim, had participated in a Muslim Public Affairs Council fundraiser titled "Be the Change," to support that organization's leadership-development programs.
In early June 2009, Alikhan spoke at a banquet/fundraiser for the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC). A noteworthy fellow speaker was Agha Saeed, who had previously defended Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian during the latter's prosecution on terrorism charges. At the ISCSC event, Saeed lamented the "Islamophobia" allegedly pervading post-9/11 America, and demanded that the Justice Department stop monitoring U.S. mosques for evidence of extremism.
In November 2010 Alikhan stepped down from his DHS position and took a job as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs in Washington, DC.