The Macedonian Muslims (Macedonian: Македонци-муслимани, Makedonci-muslimani), also known as Muslim Macedonians or Torbeš (the latter name is slightly pejorative), are a minority religious group within the community of ethnic Macedonians who are Muslims (primarily Sunni, although Sufism is widespread among the population), although not all espouse a Macedonian national identity. They have been culturally distinct from the majority Orthodox Christian Slavic Macedonian community for centuries, and are linguistically and racially distinct from the larger Muslim ethnic groups in Macedonia: the Albanians and Turks.
The largest concentration of Macedonian Muslims can be found in Western Macedonia and Eastern Albania. The Centar Župa Municipality is populated by a large number of Macedonian Muslims although for personal reasons most of the population chooses to identify as Turks. Most of the villages in the Centar Župa and Debar regions are populated by Macedonian Muslims. The Struga municipality also holds a large number of Macedonian Muslims who are primarily concentrated in the large village of Labuništa Further North in the Debar region many of the surrounding villages are inhabited by Macedonian Muslims. The Dolna Reka region is also primarily populated by Macedonian Muslims. They form the remainder of the population which emigrated to Turkey in the 1950's and 1960's. Places such as Rostuša and Tetovo also have large Macedonian Mulsim populations. Most of the Turkish population along the Western Macedonian border are in fact Macedonian Muslims. Another large concentration of Macedonian Muslims is in the so called Torbešija which is just south of Skopje. The last major concentration of Macedonian Muslims in Macedonia is in the centre of the Republic of Macedonia, surrounding the Plasnica municipality and the Dolneni municipality.
The Macedonian Muslim population of Albania and Kosovo can be primarily found along the Macedonian border. A large proportion of the Gorani population identify as Macedonians. There have been reports that Macedonian language textbooks have been distributed in Kosovo to Gorani school students.
It can be estimated from the 43,534 Turks in Western Macedonia, the Studeničani municipality, Torbesija area and Dolneni municipality that over 75% are Macedonian Muslims. Along with 5 to 10% of both the Macedonian and Albanian populations in Western Macedonia which equates to between 23,736 and 47,472. It can be estimated that the Macedonian Muslim population in the Republic of Macedonia between 55,000 and 80,000.
Some Turkish ethnologists have claimed that the Macedonian Muslims are in fact Slavicized Turks, although this interpretation is not widely supported. The Macedonian writer Jakim Sinadinovski has similarly claimed that the Macedonian Muslims are not, in fact, Slavic Macedonians; this prompted a strong reaction when his thesis was first published in 1988.
When the Socialist Republic of Macedonia was established in 1944, the Yugoslav government encouraged the Macedonian Muslims to adopt an ethnic Macedonian identity. This has since led to some tensions with the Macedonian Christian community over the widespread association between Macedonian national identity and adherence to the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
The fear of assimilation into the Albanian Muslim community has been a significant factor in Macedonian Muslim politics, amplified by the tendency of some Macedonian Muslims to vote for Albanian candidates. In 1990, the chairman of the Macedonian Muslims organization, Riza Memedovski, sent an open letter to the Chairman of the Party for Democratic Prosperity of Macedonia, accusing the party of using religion to promote the Albanisation of the Macedonian Muslims. A controversy broke out in 1995 when the Albanian-dominated Meshihat or council of the Islamic community in Macedonia declared that Albanian was the official language of Muslims in Macedonia. The decision prompted protests from the leaders of the Macedonian Muslim community.