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Croat Muslims
Hrvati muslimani
Total population
c. 12,000
Regions with significant populations
Croatia Croatia 10,841 (2021)[1]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,313 (2013)[2]
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Croats, Bosniaks,
other Slavic Muslims

Croat Muslims (Croatian: Hrvatski muslimani) are Muslims of Croat ethnic origin. They consist primarily of the descendants of the Ottoman-era Croats.


Croats are a South Slavic people. According to the published data from the 2021 Croatian census, 10,841 Muslims in Croatia declared themselves as ethnic Croats.[1] The Islamic Community of Croatia is officially recognized by the state.[3] After World War II, thousands of Croats (including those with the Islamic faith) who had supported the Ustaše fled as political refugees to countries such as Canada, Australia, Germany, South America and Islamic countries.[citation needed] The descendants of those Muslim Croats established their Croatian Islamic Centre in Australia in 36 Studley St. Maidstone, Victoria[4] and the Croatian Mosque in Toronto, which is now named Bosnian Islamic Centre,[5] headed by Mr. Kerim Reis.[6][7]

Croatian Musalims, who had been affiliated with the Ustaše, also fled to the Arab world, in particular Syria.[8]


Main articles: History of Croatia and Islam in Croatia

Ottoman period

The Turkish Ottoman Empire conquered part of Croatia from the 15th to the 19th century and left a deep civilization imprint. 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 ("bulwark of Christendom") by Pope Leo X.

Entrance to the mausoleum Kuyucu Murad Pasha, an Ottoman statesman of Croat[9][10] origin who served as grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Ahmed I. Part of the complex he had built in Istanbul before his death in 1611 and is today part of Istanbul University.

The fall of Bosnia to the Ottomans in 1463 resulted in increasing pressure on Croatian borders and continual losses of the territory, little by little moving the border line to the west. Permanent warfare during the Hundred Years' Croatian–Ottoman War (1493–1593) drastically reduced Croatian population in affected southeastern regions. Until the end of the 16th century the whole area of Turkish Croatia was occupied by the sultanate. The remaining Croats were converted to Islam and recruited as devşirme (blood tax). A part of the Croatian population managed to flee though, settling down in the northwestern regions of the country or abroad, in the neighbouring Hungary or Austria.

Turkish Croatia (marked by green border line and words "Türkisch Kroatien") on a map from 1791 made by Austrian cartographer Franz J. J. von Reilly
Fethija Mosque, located in the Bosnian city of Bihać, originally a church built in 1266 and one of the few European Islamic places of worship in the Gothic architectural style.

From the 16th to 19th century Turkish Croatia bordered Croatian Military Frontier (Croatian: Hrvatska vojna Krajina, German: Kroatische Militärgrenze), a Habsburg Empire-controlled part of Croatia, which was administered directly from Vienna's military headquarters. In the 19th century, following the Habsburg–Ottoman war in 1878 and the fall of the Bosnia Vilayet, Turkish Croatia remained within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who 1908 became a new Crown land of the Habsburg Monarchy. Although the (recently renamed) old Croatian territory was liberated, there were very few Croatian population left, i.e. population who actually lived in it registered as Catholics and Croats.

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), Memi Pasha Hrvat, Tahvil Pasha 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.[11]

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. The interpreter was then dismissed and they proceeded in Croatian during the entire process of negotiations.[citation needed]

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]

Muslims and Croat nationalism

See also: Croatian nationalism, Independent State of Croatia, and Bosniaks of Croatia

One of the major ideological influences of the Croatian nationalism of the Croatian fascist movement Ustaše was 19th century Croatian activist Ante Starčević.[12] Starčević was an advocate of Croatian unity and independence and was both anti-Habsburg and anti-Serbian. The Ustaše used Starčević's theories to promote the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia and recognized Croatia as having two major ethnocultural components: Catholic Croats and Muslim Croats.[13]

This 1939 map printed by Mladen Lorković in the Banovina of Croatia presents the results of the 1931 census such that all Catholic Croats as well as Muslims are identified as simply "Croats".

The Ustaše recognized both Roman Catholicism and Islam as the national religions of the Croatian people while rejecting Orthodox Christianity as incompatible with their objectives[14] (with the exception of the Croatian Orthodox Church intended mainly to assimilate the Serb minority). Though the Ustaše emphasized religious themes, it stressed that duty to the nation took precedence over religious custom.[15] They attached conditions to citizenship of people of Islamic faith, such as asserting that a Muslim who supported Yugoslavia would not be considered a Croat, nor a citizen but a "Muslim Serb" who could be denied property and imprisoned.[15] The Ustase claimed that such "Muslim Serbs" had to earn Croat status.[15] The Ustaše also saw the Bosnian Muslims as "the flower of the Croatian nation".[16]

A propaganda tribute (shout of the Croatian blood) to the Islamic cleric and the commander of the Muslim Militia from Sandžak, Sulejman Pačariz. Published by the "Osvit" magazine during the WWII.

Džafer-beg Kulenović was a Muslim who later became the vice-president of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) on 8 November 1941 and held the position until the war's end. He had actually succeeded his older brother Osman Kulenović in this position. Kulenović later immigrated to Syria. He lived there until his death on 3 October 1956 in Damascus. While in Syria, the Croats in Argentina published a collection of his journalistic writings. In 1950, the Croat Muslim Community in Chicago published a speech he wrote for the Muslim Congress following World War II in Lahore, Pakistan. This twenty-two page pamphlet entitled "A Message of Croat Muslims to Their Religious Brethren in the World" detailed Serb aggression against Croats of Islamic faith and promoted the idea of Croat unity. The pamphlet however failed to attract much attention in the Islamic world.

Only a few months before his death, the Croatian Liberation Movement was formed, with Dr. Kulenović being one of the founders and signatories.


The published data from the 2011 Croatian census included a crosstab of ethnicity and religion which showed that, out of a total of 62,977 Muslims (1.47% of the total population), 9,647 declared themselves as ethnic Croats.[17]

Croat Muslims by census
Year Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina Other republics
1948[18] 3,212 25,295 564
1953 4,057 15,477 N/A
1991 4,254 N/A N/A
2001 6,848
2011 9,647
2013[19] 1,375


See also: Islam in Croatia

Most Croat Muslims, like other Muslim communities (Albanians, ethnic Muslims, Muslim Roma, etc.), are Sunni Muslim; historically, Sufism has also played a significant role among all South Slavic Muslims. The Mufti of Zagreb is imam Aziz Hasanović, the leader of the Muslim community of Croatia. A new mosque in Rijeka was opened in May 2013.[20] The Muslim community is also planning to build a mosque in Osijek and Sisak. A mosque in Karlovac is also being considered.



  1. ^ a b "Population by Ethnicity/Citizenship/Mother tongue/Religion" (xlsx). Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in 2021. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. 2022. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  2. ^ Ethnicity/National Affiliation, Religion and Mother Tongue 2019, pp. 918–919.
  3. ^ "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. 15 December 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  4. ^ Google Books The South Slav journal: Opseg 6, Dositey Obradovich Circle – 1983.
  5. ^ "About Us – Bosnian Islamic Centre | Bosanski Islamski Centar".
  6. ^ Google Books James Jupp: The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins, 2001, Cambridge University Press, p. 250
  7. ^ Hrvatski islamski centar – Croatian Islamic Centre Archived 26 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Svjedočanstva hrvatskih i bosanskih izbjeglica u Siriji nakon Drugoga svjetskoga rata
  9. ^ Radushev, Evg (2003). Inventory of Ottoman Turkish documents about Waqf preserved in the Oriental Department at the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library. Sv. sv. Kiril i Metodiĭ. p. 236.
  10. ^ İsmail Hâmi Danişmend, Osmanlı Devlet Erkânı, Türkiye Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1971, p. 29. (in Turkish)
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Fischer 2007, p. 207.
  13. ^ Fischer 2007, p. 208.
  14. ^ Ramet 2006, p. 118.
  15. ^ a b c Emily Greble. Sarajevo, 1941–1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler's Europe. Ithaca, New York, USA: Cornell University Press, 2011. pp. 125.
  16. ^ Butić-Jelić, Fikreta. Ustaše i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941–1945. Liber, 1977
  17. ^ "4. Population by ethnicity and religion". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  18. ^ Konačni rezultati popisa stanovništva od 15 marta 1948 godine. Vol. 9. Savezni zavod za statistiku. 1954. p. XVII.
  19. ^ "Population by ethnic/national affiliation, religion and by sex". Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  20. ^ "Islamic Centre in Rijeka inaugurated". 4 May 2013. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013.