This paper argues that secularism is in a deep theoretical and practical crisis but it is not a failed project that should be rejected. All main four theses of political secularism (differentiation, privatization, decline, and universalism) are under heavy justified criticism. However, I argue that, first, this profound criticism does not refute secularism altogether; second, religious ideas and practices in many societies, including Muslim societies, are sources of institutionalized domination, exclusion, and oppression; and third, conventional models of secularism do not offer a sound and feasible model for eliminating this domination.
Alternative models of secularism should provide space for religious arguments in the public sphere, on the one hand, and find a normative justification to limit dominant authority of religious arguments, on the other. Neither radical exclusionism nor pure inclusionism is compatible with the basic values of a democratic polity. A context-sensitive secularism: first, rejects timeless principles; second, recognizes the necessity of an endless local interpretation of basic values; and third, emphasizes that local institutional arrangement for a conflict resolution between separate values must be a version of democracy.
If we follow the conventional portrayal of an ideal secularist state and assume that it should be constructed in a three-stage process of: 1.Distinction of church and state, 2.Separation of church and state, and, 3.Marginalizing religion from the state and from public life, then it is very difficult to imagine that Muslim states and societies, including Iranian state-society, might become “secular” soon, if at all. However, if we attempt to prepare cognitive and material conditions of a fair and free coexistence between citizens of Muslim societies, then we not only remain loyal to the background values of secularism, but also propose a feasible plan for change.