Islam in Croatia

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Islam is the second-largest faith in Croatia after Christianity. It was followed by 1.47% of the population in 2011, compared to 86.28% Roman Catholics, 4.57% not religious, atheists, agnostics and sceptics, 4.44% Orthodox Christians and 0.34% Protestants.[1]

Islam was introduced in Croatia by the Ottoman Empire during the Croatian–Ottoman Wars that lasted from 15th to 19th century. During this period some parts of the Croatian Kingdom were occupied which resulted in numerous Croats converting to Islam, some after being taken prisoners of war, some through the devşirme system. Nonetheless, Croats strongly fought against the Turks during these few centuries which resulted in the fact that the westernmost border of the Ottoman Empire and Europe became entrenched on the Croatian soil. In 1519, Croatia was called the Antemurale Christianitatis by Pope Leo X.

Mešihat Islamske zajednice u Hrvatskoj (The Islamic Community of Croatia) is the main organization of Muslims in Croatia that is officially recognized by the state.[2] President of the Islamic Community is Aziz Effendi Hasanović.[3]

As of 2011, 62.977 Muslims live in Croatia. Most of them declare themselves as Bosniaks (27.959) while others declare themselves as: Croats (9.647), Albanians (9.594), Roma (5.039), Turks (343), Macedonians (217), Montenegrins (159) and other (2.420).[1]

The first mosque in Croatia was built in Gunja in 1969.[4] Today there are 17 mosques as well as two Islamic centers (in Zagreb[5] and Rijeka[6]).


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.[7]

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, 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 nineteenth century[edit]

Muslim population in Croatia (1931-2011)
Year No.
Location of Mosques in Croatia

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.

During the Second World War the mufti of Zagreb was Ismet Muftić. After the war he was tried and eventually publicly hanged by the Partisans in 1945 because of his collaboration with the fascist regime of the Croatian WWII dictator Ante Pavelić.[8][9][10]

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:[improper synthesis?]

  • 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.[11] The following ethnic groups were presumed to be significantly Muslim:


Zagreb Mosque was completed in 1987.

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:[14]

  • 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]

Croatia's capital Zagreb has one of the biggest mosques in Europe since 1987. During the existence of the Ottoman Empire it had none because Zagreb, as well as most parts of Croatia, wasn't occupied by the Ottomans during the Hundred Years' Croatian–Ottoman War.

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

A new mosque in Rijeka was opened in May 2013.[15] The Muslim community is also planning to build a mosque in Osijek and Sisak.[citation needed] A mosque in Karlovac is also being considered.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Državni zavod za statistiku Republike Hrvatske". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  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. ^ "Islam u Hrvatskoj - model za cijelu Evropu | Al Jazeera Balkans" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  4. ^ "Hrvatska postaje središte najmodernijih džamija u Europi". 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  5. ^ "Islamska zajednica u Hrvatskoj – Medžlis Zagreb". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  6. ^ "U RIJECI OTVORENA NAJLJEPŠA DŽAMIJA U EUROPI Na svečanost došlo 20.000 ljudi". 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Religious communities in Croatia from 1945 to 1991". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  9. ^ "Croatian scientific bibliography - Browsing paper". 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  10. ^ "Povijest zgrade | HDLU – Hrvatsko društvo likovnih umjetnika". 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  11. ^ a b "SAS Output". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  12. ^ a b c "SAS Output". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "SAS Output". Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  14. ^ "Population by ethnicity and religion". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  15. ^ "Islamic Centre in Rijeka inaugurated". 4 May 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 

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