For nearly a century and a half, Iranian intellectuals' demands for secularism and democracy have remained unfulfilled. Needless to say, the establishment of a religious state has further exacerbated the formidable challenges in achieving their goals. Nonetheless, amid the current difficulties, there are new opportunities that were not available to previous generations of intellectuals. Thirty years of Islamic rule has made the calls for the separation of religion from the state far more widespread; despite ceaseless suppression of the opposition, a lively and vibrant civil society challenges the clerical oligarchy; the postrevolutionary secular Left and liberal intellectuals tend to be more tolerant and more independent-minded than their predecessors; and a new genre of secular Muslim intellectuals, unlike the Muslim reformers of the past, have begun challenging some basic tenets of Islam and the Islamic state. The article discusses the evolution of secularist thought in Iran and the tormented relationship among secular forces in the past. It explores the possibilities for more collaborative action among secularists of diverse persuasions, on the basis of new consensus models of secularism, with the goal of establishing a more effective counterhegemony to the clerical state.

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