A pejorative term for Shi'a Muslims, specifically Iranian ones, used by Arab Sunni or Salafi Muslim extremists.
The word comes from Safavi, being the dynasty that ruled over Iran beginning in the 16th century. The first Safavid monarch Shah Ismail forcefully converted the majority of the Iranian population to Shi'a Islam beginning in 1501 AD. He was a descendant of the leaders of a mystic Shi'a order called Safawiyya.
The term Safawi is used as a derogatory term to describe Shi'as as being misguided from the propaganda of this dynasty, which left a great divide in the Middle East. It is usually accompanied by other terms like Rafida and Majoosi.
It can be applied to Arab Shi'as to portray them as being a fifth column and having more allegiance to Iran than to their native countries.
Crazy Salafi/Wahabbi preacher: "We must beware of the plots of the Safawi who are trying to convert our Sunni youths and destroy our society! They are more harmful than the Jews!"