Mujahideen (English: jihadists) is a term used to refer to individuals who have taken up violent jihad. The term was popularized in the 1980s in reference to the Afghan fighters in the Soviet-Afghan War. Members of violent Islamic extremist groups have since taken up the term to refer to their guerilla fighters.
While Muslims have historically used the Islamic term “jihad” to refer to internal personal struggles, jihadists rely on the interpretation of “jihad” as holy war, and employ a variety of rhetorical tools in order to defend their claims that violent conflict with non-believers is not only permissible, but incumbent upon every Muslim. The modern jihadist movement finds its ideological roots in the mid-20th century, when Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb and others asserted that Muslims are religiously obligated to take up jihad in order to replace man-made governments with sharia-based systems.