Islam in Croatia

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Islam in Croatia was introduced by the Ottoman Empire. Muslims constitute about 1.47% of the population of Croatia.[1] The Islamic Community of Croatia is officially recognized by the state.[2]


Ottoman times[edit]

The Turkish Ottoman Empire conquered part of Croatia from the 15th to the 19th century. Numerous Croats converted to Islam, some after being taken prisoners of war, some through the devşirme system. The westernmost border of Ottoman Empire in Europe became entrenched on Croatian soil. In 1519, Croatia was called the Antemurale Christianitatis by Pope Leo X.

The historical names of many officials in the Ottoman Empire reveal their origin (Hirwat = Hrvat or Horvat, which is a Croatian name for Croat): Veli Mahmud Pasha (Mahmut Pasha Hirwat), Rüstem Pasha (Rustem Pasha Hrvat - Opuković), Piyale Pasha (Pijali Pasha Hrvat), Memipaša Hrvat, Tahvilpaša Kulenović Hrvat etc. There was some considerable confusion over the terms "Croat" and "Serb" in these times, and "Croat" in some of these cases could mean anyone from the wider South Slavic area.[3]

In 1553, Antun Vrančić, Roman cardinal, and Franjo Zay, a diplomat, visited Istanbul as envoys of the Croatian-Hungarian king to discuss a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire. During the initial ceremonial greetings they had with Rüstem Pasha Hrvat (a Croat) the conversation led in Turkish with an official interpreter was suddenly interrupted. Rustem Pasha Hrvat asked in Croatian if Zay and Vrančić spoke Croatian language. The interpreter was then dismissed and they proceeded in the Croatian language during the entire process of negotiations.

In 1585, a traveler and writer Marco A. Pigaffetta, in his Itinerario published in London, states: In Constantinople it is customary to speak Croatian, a language which is understood by almost all official Turks, especially military men. Crucially though, the lingua franca at the time among Slavic elites in the Ottoman Empire was still Old Church Slavonic. For Italians traveling through to Istanbul, the language of the Slavic Croats was often the only exposure they had to any of the Slavic languages; indeed, Bulgarian and Macedonian dialects were far more common in Istanbul than Croatian.[citation needed]

Since the 19th century[edit]

Within the territory of the present Republic of Croatia, Muslim believers were registered for the first time during the 1931 census: 1,239 of them were in Zagreb and their overall number in Croatia being only about 4000.

The mufti of Zagreb during the Second World War was Ismet Muftić. He was executed by the Partisans in 1945.[4]

In the next censa in the People's Republic of Croatia, registered Muslim believers numbered as follows:

  • 1,077 persons in 1948
  • 16,185 persons in 1953
  • 3,113 persons in 1961

In the 1960s, Muslim community advocated for the recognition of the Bosniaks as a nationality in SFR Yugoslavia. The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution allowed for the official recognition of the Muslims as a nationality, therefore allowing more individuals to declare their alignment with a compromise categorization of Muslims by nationality, in this case separated from a religious basis. For example, Džemal Bijedić, a communist federal prime-minister was a declared "Muslim" and an atheist. The introduction of new categorization may be considered as one of root causes of the sudden spike in the number of individuals declaring themselves as Muslims:

  • 18,487 persons in 1971
  • 23,740 persons in 1981
  • 43,486 persons in 1991

Based on the figures recorded during the 1931 to 1961 census, it may be concluded that a certain number of Muslim believers declared themselves as Croats or Yugoslavs.

After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, an additional increase can be attributed to the influx of Bosnian Muslims that took place during and after the 1992-1996 Bosnian conflict.

The 2001 Croatian census identified a total of 56,777 adherents of Islam, or 1.3% of the total population of Croatia.[5] The following ethnic groups were presumed to be significantly Muslim:


places of worship for Muslims located in Croatia

The published data from the 2011 Croatian census included a crosstab of ethnicity and religion which showed that a total of 62,977 Muslims (1.47% of the total population) was divided between the following ethnic groups:[1]

  • 27,959 Muslim Bosniaks
  • 9,647 Muslim Croats
  • 9,594 Muslim Albanians
  • 6,704 Muslims by nationality
  • 5,039 Muslim Roma
  • 2,361 Muslims of other nationalities
  • 762 Muslims of undeclared nationality
  • 343 Muslim Turks
  • 217 Muslim Macedonians
  • 159 Muslim Montenegrins
  • other individual ethnicities (under 100 people each)

Islam today[edit]

Zagreb Mosque was completed in 1987.

Croatia's capital Zagreb has one of the biggest mosques in Europe, although during the Ottoman Empire it had none (Zagreb was never occupied by the Ottomans).

The Bosniak imam Ševko Omerbašić, was the long-time leader of the Muslim community of Croatia and the Mufti of Zagreb. The current Mufti of Zagreb is Aziz Hasanović.

A new mosque in Rijeka was opened in May 2013.[8] The Muslim community is also planning to build a mosque in Osijek and Sisak. A mosque in Karlovac is also being considered.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "4. Population by ethnicity and religion". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  2. ^ "Ugovor između Vlade Republike Hrvatske i Islamske zajednice u Hrvatskoj o pitanjima od zajedničkog interesa". Narodne novine - Službeni list Republike Hrvatske NN196/03 (in Croatian). Narodne novine. December 15, 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ Stavrides, Théoharis (2001). The Sultan of vezirs: the life and times of the Ottoman Grand Vezir Mahmud Pasha Angelovic (1453–1474). Brill. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-90-04-12106-5. 
  4. ^ Religious Communities in Croatia from 1945 to 1991
  5. ^ a b Population by religion - 2001 Croatian Census (Croatian)
  6. ^ a b c Population by ethnicity - 2001 Croatian Census (Croatian)
  7. ^ a b c d e Croatian 2001 census, detailed classification by nationality
  8. ^ "Islamic Centre in Rijeka inaugurated". 4 May 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 

External links[edit]